MTPR

Oddities And Endings In Aaron Parrett's 'Maple & Lead'

Jun 21, 2018

Maple & Lead is an eleven story collection of fiction by Aaron Parrett. Originally published in magazines and journals, these stories explore the quirky efforts of humans winding their way through the world to make sense of loss and sorrow, most whom, like us, will probably be OK in the end.

Maple & Lead

The following highlights are from a conversation with Aaron Parrett about his collection of stories Maple & Lead. Click to listen now or subscribe to our podcast.

Sarah Aronson: What’s the strangest thing you’ve bought or sold on eBay™?

Aaron Parrett: Definitely the dog hair. I actually did that. I tried to sell the dog hair, I didn’t do it but I listed it.

Laughing.

I didn’t expect that answer. How many pounds of dog hair did you try to sell?

I don’t know how many pounds but it was 2 large black plastic garbage bags pretty much full. I lived in a house for 9 months and never swept it, and then when I had to move out I did it as a joke.  But I really did get an email or a message from somebody, I think in Japa,n who’s like, “More power to you. I don’t want to buy it,” but that’s pretty funny.

This book is a collection of 11 stories, including one called “13 Things I’ve Sold on eBay.” And one of the things I really enjoyed about this book, Aaron, is that the term “stories” felt rather open-ended because there were moments when I couldn’t tell if this was nonfiction or fiction. How do you define the word story?

Wow, that’s a tough one.

It’s interesting because I actually write a lot of nonfiction. I was trained in philosophy and comparative literature, and one of the questions you bump up against right away is, “What is the difference between actual history and just stories people tell?” Because people misremember stuff all the time. So I think it is a tough distinction, especially in this day and age with fake news and alternative facts. But I guess for me the big distinction is verisimilitude, it’s a great Latin word, and it means” like the truth.” So fiction is supposed to be like the truth, and when it isn’t, then we know we’re reading something…the illusion is lost. Whereas when it’s actually true, or completely true, then it would just be memoir or creative nonfiction or something. So I think a lot of these stories are based in actual events. But you know you change the details and make stuff up.

That’s what I was wondering, for you as a writer, when do you know if it’s a good story to be told in nonfiction, and when do you need to shift the details?

You know, that’s also a tough question because I think a lot of things that happen in real life are too unbelievable to pass as fiction. Like if you passed them off as fiction people would be like “no way.” Whereas things that, again the verisimilitude part of it, things that you make up a story about, there’s an element of truth that transcends the mundane actual everyday existence that we all have. And I think that’s what verisimilitude gets to also.

Break

Will you describe the difference between the paperback and the hardcover?

The whole concept of this book came about because I started letterpress printing and I had this little Chandler & Price 8x12 letterpress machine—you know it’s treadle operated—and a guy walked into the little space where I had it set up, and he’d just arrived from Colorado and said, “Hey, I hear you’re a printer and I’m a wood-cutter. We should do something together.” That day we came up with this idea to print a book—he would illustrate it and I would just use these stories I’d published over the years—and that required getting another bigger press to do it, because it was a huge ordeal. It took eight months of printing four hours a day to make 100 copies. It was kind of an absurd labor, but I learned a lot doing it. Then we sewed all the pieces of paper together—their signature, their called—then bound most of them. Some we had bound by a professional binder. Because that was such a labor-intensive process, we picked ten stories and rejected a couple others. When we went to make the paperback edition for our friends who couldn’t afford $300 a copy for a letterpress book, we added one of those other stories in.

About the Book:

Maple & Lead is an eleven story collection of fiction by Aaron Parrett. Originally published in magazines and journals, these stories explore the quirky efforts of humans winding their way through the world to make sense of loss and sorrow, most whom, like us, will probably be OK in the end.

Aaron Parrett

About the Author:  

Aaron Parrett started writing songs in 1995 while living on Barber Street in Athens, Georgia, while he was enrolled in graduate school in Comparative Literature. The Sinners, his first CD, came out in 1996 to great critical acclaim. A year later he teamed up with Jason Anderson, Jon Mills, and John Neff to record a second showcase of his songs called The Judge and the Jury: The Legend of Jim Collins, released in 2000 on the Pizzle label. He and Jason recorded a second Judge and Jury album in 2002, called Left of the Mason Dixon Line, which also featured some fine pedal steel work by John Neff.

Meanwhile, Aaron started writing stuff other than songs-an academic tome on traveling to the moon, various essays, and a dozen short stories that have appeared in places like The Massachusetts Review, Open Spaces, Wild Blue Yonder, The Wisconsin Review, and Janus Head. Some of these stories are available for your reading pleasure elsewhere on this website.

Nowadays, teaching at the local college in Great Falls, Montana keeps him pretty busy, but he plays out regularly throughout the state, and gives readings when invited, so be sure to check the schedule often. Check out Territorial Press here.